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Wilhelm Middelschulte (Composer)

Born: April 3, 1863 - Werne, near Dortmund (Kamen-Heeren/Westphalia), Germany
Died: May 4, 1943 - Werne, near Dortmund, Germany

The eminent German organist, composer and teacher, Wilhelm Middelschulte, studied at the Institut für Kirchenmusik in Berlin with Loschhorn (piano), Haupt (organ), and Commer and Schroder (composition).

After serving as organist at the Church of St. Luke in Berlin from 1888 to 1891, Wilhelm Middelschulte settled in Chicago in 1891. He was organist at the Cathedral of the Holy Name until 1895, and then organist at Milwaukee's St. James's Church from 1899 to 1919. He was also a professor of organ at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music there. He is one of the most significant organists of his time, and was greatly distinguished for his interpretations of J.S. Bach. In 1935 he became instructor of theory and organ at the Detroit Foundation Music School. In 1939 he returned to Germany. The University of Notre Dame gave him Doctor honoris causa for his work for the culture heritage in USA.

Ferruccio Busoni dedicated the «edizione definitiva» of the Fantasia contrapfuntistica «An Wilhelm Middelschulte, Meister des Kontrapunkts.» He must have had for Wilhelm Middelschulte a profound admiration, since he chose him to be the dedicatee of one of his most ambitious works. It is obvious that both men discussed some compositional aspects of the work, because the sketches for the Grosse Fuge contain contrapuntal studies based on the Art of Fugue by both Middelschulte and Ziehn; there are also two four-voice canons bearing the dedication «Herrn Ferruccio Busoni zur frdl. [freundlichen] Erinnerung von W. Middelschulte. Chicago. 16. ]anuar 1910.» Middelschulte is the author of the first transcription of the Fantasia contrappuntistica. Even though it was published in 1912, a year after the completion of Stock's version, this arrangement was already completed by late January 1911. Middelschulte also participated in the first performance of Stock's orchestral arrangement. He composed several organ works, among others Kanons und Fuge uber den Choral Vater unser im Himmelreich, which Busoni quoted in the passage from his Bach edition; the passage reproduced is the exposition of a fourvoice fugue on a theme by Ziehn, which is provided underneath with its symmetrical inversion by Middelschulte.Of peculiar interest are two transcriptions he made of Bach's Chaconne (which Busoni had himself transcribed): one for organ, the other for string orchestra and organ.

Works (selection)

Organ Works:
Passacaglia in D minor (1897/ Leipzig, 1901)
Concerto on a Theme by Johann Sebastian Bach (
Leipzig, 1906)
Canonic Fantasy on BACH and Fugue on Four Themes by Johann Sebastian Bach (
Leipzig, 1906)
Canons and Fugue on the Chorale Vater unser im Himmelreich (
Leipzig, 1904)
Toccata on the Chorale Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (
Leipzig, 1907)
Canon in F major, After a Theme by J.S. Bach and inspired by the great Toccata in F major (New York, 1909)
Méditation sur le Choral ‚Tout passe ici bas’. In Canone alla Duodecima (Paris, 1911)
Two Studies on the Chorale Vater unser im Himmelreich, in Verlagsgenossenschaft Organo (Zürich, 1913)
Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue for Organ (
Leipzig, 1922)
Kontrapunktische Symphonie on theme of J.S. Bach (
Leipzig, 1935)
Perpetuum mobile (Etude for pedals alone on the Wedge Fugue subject of J. S. Bach) (New York, 1951)

Source: Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Wilhelm Middelschulte Website; Rondoni Website; Wikipedia Website
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2006)

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


Canons u. Fuge über den Choral Vater unser im Himmelreich, for Organ

Vater unser im Himmelreich


Two Studies on the Chorale Vater unser im Himmelreich, in Verlagsgenossenschaft Organo

Vater unser im Himmelreich


Links to other Sites

Wilhelm Middelshulte: Organist - Compoonist - Lehrer (Officiale Website) [German]

Wilhelm Middelschulte (Wikipedia)
Wilhelm Middelschultr (Rondoni)


J. Becker: "Wilhelm Middelschulte," Musical Quarterly (April 1928).
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Middelschulte, Wilhelm. Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, S. 51023 (vgl. MGG Bd. 16, S. 1276) (c) Bärenreiter-Verlag 1986

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